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BILL PLASCHKE

William Gomez makes biggest save of the Dodgers' season

If you want to start a brawl in the Dodgers' locker room, you must first go through an ROTC kid from Roosevelt High.

August 07, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

So now Prince Fielder knows.

You want to enter the Dodgers' clubhouse, you must first go through Boyle Heights.

You want to start a brawl at the locker of a Dodgers reliever, you must first go through an ROTC kid from Roosevelt High.

You want to cut at the Dodgers' heart, you must first fight through their neighborhood soul.

His name is William Gomez, and even in a season of last-second heroics, no Dodgers stopper has had a bigger save.

"Doing my job," he says, shrugging. "Protecting my team."

Check out the video. On a wild Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, this 34-year-old usher protected an entire season.

Did you see it? When the Milwaukee Brewers' Fielder angrily attempted to enter the Dodgers' locker room after a game to fight Guillermo Mota, Gomez alone stopped him.

Stared him down. Kept him out. Held him off until the security guards arrived.

The mightiest man in baseball frozen by a 5-foot-10 dude making $12 an hour.

Baseball's home-run hitting champion struck out by a guy who used to work for Toys R Us.

Goliath stalled by a David armed with little more than his longtime love for the team.

Gomez grew up watching games from the reserved level while his mother worked the concession stands downstairs.

"This place was my baby sitter," he recalls.

For the last 11 seasons, he has suffered through intermittent winter employment -- bowling alley, toy store, street cleanup -- in order to keep his summer job here intact.

"I've had a lot of jobs, but really, I've only had one job," he says.

For the last seven seasons, he has willingly guarded the Dodgers' clubhouse door even though it means eight nightly hours of standing at a desk in a dimly lighted hallway on a worn patch of carpet while the baseball world literally passes him by.

"This is a dream come true," he says. "Every day, I get to guard my favorite team."

Dodger Stadium is filled with dreams like this, workers who are fans, employees who are neighbors, folks from surrounding communities who are thrilled to spend their summers laboring for a team they have cheered for all their lives.

It's a special bond not shared by the majority of workers at any other Southland professional stadium. But it is a bond that is rarely celebrated or even noticed. The workers spend their days with backs to the field, their eyes on the customers, their loyalty unspoken.

And then comes Tuesday night, when Mota angers Fielder by hitting him with a pitch late in a blowout game, when Fielder runs directly to the Dodgers' clubhouse in hopes of barging inside and breaking Mota's face.

And now, finally, it is showtime for a true believer.

Did you see it? Fielder stalks toward the white double doors adorned with the blue Dodgers script as teammate Ryan Braun futilely attempts to slow him.

Because of the ancient clubhouse setup, visiting players often walk through the Dodgers' clubhouse to use the weight room or batting cages, but Gomez felt this was different.

"I heard him using Mota's name, I heard him cursing, I had a feeling he wasn't going in there to lift weights," Gomez said.

So the usher moved in front of the door to stop Fielder. Scared but strong, he spread his arms and maintained his cool.

"I can't let you in there, sir," he told Fielder, again and again. "I can't let you in there, sir."

Fielder stalked and Gomez stared. Fielder made one quick move for the door, and Gomez quickly stretched to stop him.

"I'd never seen or even heard of something like this happening," Gomez said. "I just knew he couldn't get in there, but anything could happen if he did."

If he did? You would not believe the brawl.

Once inside those double doors, it is a clear path down a short hallway to the Dodgers' locker area.

There would have been nothing to stop the foolish Fielder and his teammates from barging in on some stunned and angry Dodgers.

There could be injuries, suspensions, season-altering stuff.

Instead, thanks to Gomez, there was calm.

"If he wanted to fight me or whatever, fine," says Gomez. "But to get through that door, he had to get through me."

While guarding the door, Gomez motioned to the television cameraman to hand him his walkie-talkie, enabling him to call for security help, which quickly arrived as Fielder finally settled down.

The entire incident lasted only seconds but may have preserved a summer.

"William displayed quick thinking and courage in a challenging situation, and we are grateful for that," said Charles Steinberg, Dodgers spokesman.

The thinking, Gomez said, came from being a youth in Boyle Heights, when he had to act decisively to avoid the clutch of gangs.

The courage, he said, came from a single mother who always pushed him to push back.

On Thursday, out in the left-field pavilion where Maria Gomez is now a concession manager, that mother cries.

"What my son did, that's how he was raised, there is where he comes from," she said.

A team, a neighborhood, a connection.

So now Prince Fielder knows.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillPlaschke

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